Rewilding Europe awarded Patagonia grant for Velebit pond restoration

Funding from American company will see ponds restored in the Velebit rewilding area in Croatia, helping burgeoning local wildlife populations.

Access to freshwater is critical for the wildlife of the Velebit rewilding area. Facilitated by the Patagonia loan, pond restoration will alleviate this problem until better habitat connectivity is achieved.

Access to freshwater is critical for the wildlife of the Velebit rewilding area. Facilitated by the Patagonia loan, pond restoration will alleviate this problem until better habitat connectivity is achieved.
Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

Rewilding Europe has recently been awarded a grant from American outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia. The $8000 grant, which was awarded by the  Patagonia Grants Council, will be used to restore ponds in the Velebit rewilding area in Croatia. These are a vital resource for increasing local wildlife populations, especially in the dry summer months, until greater connectivity has been established between drier parts of the mountain range and natural freshwater sources.

Pond restoration will be carried out by the Rewilding Velebit local team in cooperation with the Velebit Nature Park.

Pond restoration will be carried out by the Rewilding Velebit local team in cooperation with the Velebit Nature Park.
Nino Salkic / Rewilding Velebit

“We are deeply grateful for this support from Patagonia,” says Rewilding Velebit team leader Davor Krmpotic. “Restoring these ponds is a critical short-term measure which will support the ongoing wildlife comeback in the area.”

Now that the grant has been approved, restoration of the ponds will take place over the next 12 months. Camera trap monitoring will begin immediately after the ponds are completed.

Patagonia gives 1% of its annual sales to support environmental organisations around the world. The company has donated $89 million towards environmental work since it started its grants programme in 1985.

The Velebit region comprises over 200,000 hectares of karst mountains. This means that in hot summers there is almost no fresh water available for wildlife in the area. When the mountain chain was still used for livestock, local communities solved this problem by building water reservoirs that effectively stored water during the summer.

Velebit wildlife, such as the Eurasian lynx pictured here, frequently use ponds as a source of water, especially during the summer months.

Velebit wildlife, such as the Eurasian lynx pictured here, frequently use ponds as a source of water, especially during the summer months.
Rewilding Velebit

The more recent trend of land abandonment experienced in the Velebit has seen these artificial ponds fall into disrepair, however. Their restoration would not only be of cultural-historical importance, but would serve the needs of local wildlife, such as red and roe deer, Balkan chamois, wild boar, wolf, Eurasian lynx and brown bear. A freshwater study was recently completed by the Rewilding Velebit team, proving that access to water is critically important to natural wildlife densities in the area.

Pond restoration will be carried out by the Rewilding Velebit local team in cooperation with the Velebit Nature Park (VNP), based on a memorandum of understanding signed in January 2018. In return for the restoration the VNP will work with our local team to provide input for Natura 2000 management plans, while guards of the VNP can also help to patrol rewilding areas within the park.

Over the longer term Rewilding Europe, together with its Croatian partners, is working on the better connectivity of winter and summer habitats in the Velebit region. The latter will provide natural sources of fresh water along the coast, and on the landward side of the mountains on the plains of the River Lika.

  • Read more about Rewilding Europe’s work in the Velebit Mountains here.
  • Visit the Rewilding Velebit Facebook page here.
  • Experience wildlife watching in the Velebit rewilding area with the European Safari Company.

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